Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Timing lights for speakers

In most Toastmasters clubs the speech Timer communicates with the speaker via a “traffic light” box. For a 5-to-7 minute speech the bottom, green light is turned on after 5 minutes. The middle yellow light replaces it after 6 minutes. Finally the top red light is turned on after 7 minutes, and the speaker has 30 seconds to wrap up. Currently Toastmasters sells two models of manual traffic lights - the $65 #6997 and the $185 #7010. Great Timer sells a programmable LED timer for $229.

Last October a post on the TM Visions blog (from District 55) described an inexpensive alternative. It is a multicolor (color changing) LED light bulb controlled by an infrared remote. They assembled $25 kits with a lamp socket and cord and supplied them to twenty of their clubs. You can find similar bulbs and floodlights at Amazon, and they also can be found on eBay. The single bulb could fit into almost any desk lamp. These bulbs are an interesting alternative to flags or the Toastmasters #901 timing cards. A bulb is useless without the remote, so a spare battery also belongs in the kit. For now I’m going to keep using our foam flags.

While I was  looking on Amazon I found another interesting $30 product called the American Innovative Lecture Timer and Roadshow Travel Alarm. (Toastmasters sells it as their item #6801). First, it is a travel alarm clock. Second, it has a row of six colored LEDs that provide a bar chart of the elapsed fraction of time for a speech. It is small enough to put on any lectern. But, what if the speaker doesn’t stand behind there? Why can’t we show the speaker a similar bar graph of where he is relative to his allotted time?

The display shown above, of a box with a row of seven lights turned on at one-minute intervals, is one way this could be done. A row of cards or blocks would serve the same function. Imagine giant Scrabble tiles in a holder, or a row of seven flip cards.    


In a post on March 1, 2011 I discussed a speech about Timing Tiles.


Dermot said...

You mention that the last device would be like seven flip cards, which brings me to the question - why can't you use flip cards?

My experience of timing lights is that they spend their time finding new and interesting ways to not work, our club uses coloured cards and they never break down....

Our problem is to find a colour to indicate to the speaker that they are way over time!

Richard I. Garber said...

Of course you can use flip cards. My club has used flags for the last decade, after our fancy timer broke.

A purple card could signal that the speaker is way over time. Another card with “SIT DOWN NOW” might follow it.

Dermot said...

oohhh, flags sound like fun....

I like the idea of a "sit down" sign, that is soooo tempting!

David said...

If flags are used, be sure that the current one is always displayed. In other words, don't just raise a flag in the air and then lower it, because the speaker may not be looking at that point in time. I have made many manual and automatic timing "lights", my most fun being a set I use for a "Talk Like a Pirate Meeting". It uses flags that pop-up when an appropriate button is pressed -- green, yellow, and a black "jolly roger". Come to think of it, the jolly roger might be good for your "SIT DOWN NOW" indicator!

Anonymous said...

Two othere alternative.Some Toastmasters got together and build lights for clubs. They have simple ones and those that use a remote. www.tmlights.com.

Another is for a programmable light visit www.ovationtimer.com